Mumbai man takes stock of butterflies in the city, finds 153 species | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai man takes stock of butterflies in the city, finds 153 species

Mumbai city news: Nelson Rodrigues has also recorded 103 caterpillar species in Mumbai over the past 6 years

mumbai Updated: Jun 24, 2017 17:56 IST
Badri Chatterjee
In his book, Nelson Rodrigues classifies butterflies based on colour to educate people.
In his book, Nelson Rodrigues classifies butterflies based on colour to educate people.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)

Till three years ago, Mumbaiites were only familiar with butterfly species recorded by the British in 1950. But thanks to Nelson Rodrigues, a Wadala resident who spent six years at various green zones in the city, Mumbai got its first record of butterfly species in 2014. The copywriter-turned-nature enthusiast has documented 153 species of the winged insects in a book ‘Butterflies of Mumbai’ against 130 noted by the British.

Rodrigues also recorded 103 caterpillar species from the city in six years and included it in his book.“The idea was to educate citizens about the importance of conserving these species. With the advent of concretisation and various developmental activities in the financial capital that rapidly increased over the last five decades, the butterfly population started dwindling in the city. This gave me the impetus to study them,” said Rodrigues adding that the reduction in their green habitat and air pollution are the primary reasons for decline in their numbers.

Some of the rarest butterflies seen in Mumbai include the Indian Red Flash, Red spot, Orange Awlet, Silverstreak Blue and Crimson Rose. In 2014, Rodrigues identified three new butterfly species found in Mumbai — Abnormal Silverline (Cigaritis abnormis), Giant Red Eye (Gangara thyrsis) and Large Guava Blue (Virachola perse).

There are more than 1,200 butterfly species all over the country. “The Southern Birdwing, the biggest known butterfly in India, which was known to frequent gardens in Mumbai, is not seen in the city anymore,” he said.

In his book, rather than categorizing the species according to scientific classifications, Rodrigues divided them based on colours to make it more user-friendly. This was in contrast with the British, who employed labourers to capture different butterflies and bring them to labs for the final scientific documentation. “Earlier butterflies were categorized on the basis of families, which was a little complex. So the book was drafted with colours such as yellow, orange, blue, green, black and multicoloured and so on. On spotting a butterfly at your garden, all you need to do is flip to the page with the same colour,” he said adding, “With an aim to educate children, the first few chapters of the book have been written in a question-answer format.”

Rodrigues travelled the length and breadth of the city to spot butterflies with Dr Amol Patwardhan, from Navy Nagar, Colaba to Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli, Nagla block, Tungareshwar, Yeoor hills and some pockets of Navi Mumbai and Thane.

Researchers said documenting caterpillars, butterflies and their life cycle will not only help conserve them but is a sign of identifying good air quality. “Wherever the air is clean, butterflies are known to thrive. Rodrigues is a crusader for clean air in Mumbai. He informs citizens about the locations where the air is clean. We need more people like him,” said Avinash Kubal, deputy director, Maharashtra Nature Park.